It's time to retire RSS. Atom is superior, better defined, mature, and a proper standard. RSS is hurting blog readers' user experience.

The problem is that the major blog platforms that support Atom are publishing multiple feeds in the autodiscovery section of the blog. So when a user goes to subscribe to the blog the browser presents a completely confusing choice of multiple feeds to subscribe to. That choice is meaningless to blog readers and just causes unnecessary anxiety. Publishing platforms should simply advertise the Atom feed and be done with it. Yeah, sure, keep the RSS link working for backward compatibility if you need to. Just stop advertising the link to the RSS.

Here's the advertisements for major publishing platforms

  • Blogger: 3 choices. Atom, RSS, Atom comments.
  • Typepad: 5 choices. Atom, RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, Atom comments, RSS 2.0 comments.
  • Wordpress: 1 choice. RSS 2.0. Atom is supported but not advertised by default.
  • Tumblr: 1 choice. RSS 2.0.
Ironically, many of the RSS links are published through Feedburner which has some automatic feed rewriting that ends up serving Atom anyway.

Congrats to Wordpress and Tumblr for not presenting a confusing choice, but you're offering the wrong feed type. Blogger and Typepad, your user experience is awful. I sympathize with the blog vs. comment problem, but at least get it down to two choices.

PS: no criticism intended to the history of RSS. The original Netscape work was revolutionary and kudos to Winer and other early blog pioneers who saw the value of a standard syndication format and promoted it. Atom represents the industry maturity of the syndication vision of RSS; it's time for the progenitor to retire.

  2008-06-13 16:23 Z